March 15, 2019
Yesterday I went in search of a Reddish Egret. I had seen my first one a few weeks ago at Weedon Island Preserve, but it was too far away to get a good picture. More recently, Mel and I were walking along the beach in downtown St. Pete when I spotted another one, but this time, I didn’t even have my camera! Later, when I looked up information about Reddish Egrets, I found out that they are “one of the rarest egrets in north America.” No wonder I haven’t seen very many!! So, I packed up my camera and headed back down to the beach to spend the waning hours of yesterday’s sunlight looking for my needle in a haystack.
While I was walking along the shoreline to where I had last seen ‘my egret’, I tried taking pictures of the Pelicans as they flew gracefully in and out of Coffee Pot Bayou where there is a small island covered with all sorts of nests and all sorts of birds—egrets, roseate spoonbills, great blue herons, cormorants, and pelicans. Because of the island’s location, there’s a steady stream of birds, particularly pelicans, flying in and out of the bayou. As I stood on the edge of the inlet taking pictures, though, I felt as if I were in an arcade shooting decoys as the birds kept popping into view on a regular basis. I took a lot of pictures, but many were out of focus because it’s a real challenge getting a sharp picture of a moving bird using a long lens and no tripod– but I always enjoy trying!
As I walked further down the beach closer to where we had last seen the Reddish Egret, I continued to shoot various birds flying through the air hoping that at least a few of the pictures would be sharp enough to save.
As I was trying to focus in on one particular incoming bird, I realized that ‘my’ Reddish Egret was flying right at me! It happened so fast that I didn’t get a picture of him in flight, but I did get a second chance when he landed nearby! What luck! I started snapping pictures right away and kept moving quietly closer and closer, but taking care not to disturb him. This egret was obviously used to people! He paid absolutely no attention to me and I was able get within maybe 20 feet or so of the tree where he had landed.
After awhile, a young boy came nearby to do some cast netting along the shore and the egret flew right over to him– hoping to enjoy whatever fell out his net I suspect. But, when this ‘mooching plan’ didn’t work out (because the boy didn’t catch anything), the egret went fishing on his own—which was quite entertaining to watch.
“The Reddish Egret stalks its prey—mostly small fish—more actively than other herons and egrets. The birds first locate their quarry by sight, then the dance begins. They dash, lurch, and zig-zag after their prey, often holding their wings over the water as they hunt. This shadow-casting strategy is thought to reduce glare and help the egret more accurately sight and spear its prey.”
What a treat!! I felt extremely fortunate to not only find ‘my egret’ but to observe him for such a long time as he went about his daily business!